The United States must remain both diplomatically and militarily engaged in Syria to protect its own national security interests, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday.
“Continued strategic threats to the US from not just ISIS and al Qaeda persist, and this threat I am referring to principally is Iran,” Tillerson said, adding, “In short, Syria remains a source of severe strategic threats.”
Tillerson spoke at the Hoover Institution on the campus of Stanford University before an audience that included former Secretaries of State George Shultz and Condoleezza Rice.
He said President Donald Trump’s administration was implementing a new strategy on Syria that would achieve “key end states” for the carnage engulfing the country – which has left a half million people dead – and would ultimately lead to a political resolution without Syrian President Bashar al-Assad remaining in power.
The continued presence of ISIS in Syria, despite the loss of a majority of its territory there, is necessary, Tillerson said, to avoid a repeat of the security vacuum that followed the US withdrawal from Iraq in 2011 under the Obama administration and the conditions that allowed ISIS and other terrorist groups to flourish in the region.
“ISIS presently has one foot in the grave, and by maintaining an American military presence in Syria until the full and complete defeat of ISIS is achieved, it will soon have two,” he said.